Table of contents
- Social Activities
- Academic Curriculum
- Physical Infrastructure
Over the past year universities worldwide has had an increase in the number of admission of visually impaired students drastically. Whereas in the past visually impaired students were disadvantage mostly because of the campuses physical and academic environment. According to research the University of Namibia (UNAM) in 2004 had only 2 visually impaired students and the number has increased in the recent times. This is because of the increase in improvements of physical environments. Through research done the findings of this essays content is based on books, online articles and the internet. This essay explains the challenges of visually impaired students and their achievements.
According to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and cause of Death (ICD-10), defines visual impairment as the best corroded vision and refers it to individuals who are partially and legally blind. Conceptually visual impairment is viewed as being a burden and a lack of independence to the majority of the student population. Regardless of this Tertiary Education is viewed as crucial element in the world as Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the key to Success”.
The United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of opportunities with persons with disabilities (1994) is very vocal about giving individuals with disabilities equal opportunities as to the ones without any disabilities. Therefore UNISA (University Of South Africa) took the initiative to open a resource centre for students with disabilities, their responsibility is to provide academic support and braille transcription and proof reading (Haihambo, 2010).
According to Josua (2013) most visually impaired are however faced with challenges. Challenges regarding social activities (social groups and television facilities), academic curriculums (field of study) and physical facilities/infrastructure (classrooms and labs).
Socail activities are one of the largest system where majority of students participate in. It includes activities such universities talent shows, sport activities and beauty pageants. Students with visual impairments feel left out from these social events because they are unable to see the beauty of the activities taking place and the stadium is usually overcrowded. The type of sports codes at universities for visually impaired are not that well know and supported and this makes it difficult as to participate it.
'All students should stay together, wherever possible, regardless of any difficulties or differences they may have' (UNESCO, 1994, p. 11). Regardless of this most of the time students do not engage with visually impaired students because they believe society will mock them. One of the most contributing factor among others are the stereotypical way of thinking of individuals such as: visually impaired are seen as an outcast and that they have been spiritually bewitched.
This creates a feeling of loneliness and burdensome to the visually impaired. They are humans and they want a feeling of love, care and support. An overwhelming and welcoming habitat is all they need in order for them to boost their self-esteem and self-concept (Möwes, 2002).
In most instances they have to swallow their pride and ask for assistance from their peers in order for them to be accompanied to places they cannot go without help. They often choose to do assignments on the basis of what they remembered so they would not disturb their friends. Haihambo (2009) states that visually impaired students found it easier to request support from another student with a disability, for they believed that they would understand exactly what it feels like to need another person’s assistance.
About 90% of all visually impaired students are prohibited from taking the field of study of their choice due to their disability. For example the science field, thus decreasing their will of fulfilling their desires and achieving their long life dreams of choosing their own career path regardless of their circumstances.
Josua (2013) furthermore illustrated that the examination duration for learners with visual impairment is double the normal time for the sighted students( DNEA Guidelines, 2010). However, when there were test to be taken all learners are expected to be done in the given time period which disadvantage the visually impaired as they take longer then the other students. In addition most test written by partially sighted learners test were not printed on a magnified font size.
Haihambo (2009) stared in this research most visual impaired students have a problem with finding their way around the library because of the absence of books in braille (a form of writing language for blind people in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are fell with fingertips), both academic and non-academic which they compare to hunting without a rifle.
Majority of lecturers at universities use power point presentation as a method of teaching. This type of lecturing does not take visually impaired students into consideration On the other hand some lectures bring different types of materials that needs to felt and used in certain class activities. This type of protocol focus on auditory and less on visual kinaesthetic and tactile learning style.
Research has proven that with stairs through the whole of Campus it is nearly impossible for one in that situation to find their way around. They would need a helping hand to budge around, this causing emotional dilemma in the visual impaired students.
Half of the laboratories in the universities do not accommodate visually impaired students, thus creating a feeling of omission towards those students. Despite the laboratory experiments which is a disadvantage to those special students they are unable to see which chemicals react with each other.
A major challenge is the irresponsive environment on the campuses objects and other structures that are placed for decoration or other purposes as well as poor lighting. These factors pose as a threat to visually impaired students as this results in falls and minor accidents (Haihambo, 2010, p. 339).
In most cases students with visual impairement have experienced the lack of consistency with opening and closing doors as a barrier posed safety threats and caused a feeling of self-doubt and uneasiness (Haihambo, 2010, p. 349). With moving furniture in the classrooms as well as the hostels, increases the risk of accidents for visually impaired students and is anticipated as inconsiderate towards this students.
Haihambo (2008, p. 353) withal found that Braille books take up much more space therefore students with visual impairments might need larger rooms to provide more studying space and to correct their body position, such students not only need larger rooms, but also larger desks. Students with visual impairment have reported developing health problems resulting from bad sitting position due to lack of space.
Although they may face such complex challenges the visual impaired students never fail to deliver to the fullest of their ability. This is driven by the urge to be regarded as independent and to feel the satisfaction of beating the odds of their circumstances. One of the greatest achievement among others is their academic break through.
For example Johannes Tala Matsi, who was a student at the University of Namibia (UNAM) and who was the first visual impaired student that graduated with a Masters Degree in Gender and Development Studies. As Matsi said, “disability does not mean inability” hence he did not let this stop him from being successful. He got through University by recording cassettes in every lecture, although they piled up after the semesters, it was all worth it. Matsi is currently the Chief Labour at the Ministry of Labour (New Era, 2019).
In conclusion, although the visually impaired students faces a lot of difficulties that includes the physical, academical and social adaptation on and off campus it is save to say that majority of universities try to accomadate these special students. They also act as a large source of motivation for their peers.